Audiophiles collect gear. Audiophiles collect music. Many of us also collect books that enrich the hobby. These can range from technical explainers to music-oriented to books about the hobby and the business itself. While these books can be a design element of any audiophile listening room, many of them have a lot to offer the enthusiast beyond collecting dust after a quick read.
Here are some of the audiophile – and music-oriented books I recommend to every audiophile, no matter how long you’ve been in the hobby. Some are easily attainable paperback editions while others are harder-to-find, expensive hardback books. Some have Kindle versions and others are $400 coffee table books. This list runs the gamut.
The Absolute Sound’s Illustrated History of High-End Audio: Loudspeakers (buy at Amazon) $399
Yes, we compete with The Absolute Sound (sort of), but I simply can’t deny the work that the TAS staff, including editor Robert Harley, did on these two coffee table volumes. I have recommended these books to new executives in the industry looking to learn the history of who’s who and what’s what from a business standpoint.
The Absolute Sound’s Illustrated History of High-End Audio: Electronics (buy at Amazon) $399
If you bought the Loudspeakers edition, you likely need to add this second volume to your collection too. The photos in both volumes show many of our audiophile heroes in their youth. Many of these guys are still thankfully alive today. Some you can talk to on the phone if you call the factory. Some you can still meet at audiophile shows. Knowing their history is a fun way to understand the history of innovation in the world of audio. Meeting the people behind your components can help you enjoy the audiophile process or journey a little bit more.
McIntosh: For the Love of Music by Ken Kessler $150 (buy at Amazon)
This is another coffee table book to add to your audiophile collection. Ken Kessler covers the storied history of McIntosh – a brand that is thriving today in a world where other legendary audiophile brands have sadly slipped out of relevance. This is a great book to flip through as you listen to some great tunes on your audiophile rig, even if that rig doesn’t contain any McIntosh components.
Audio Power Amplifier Design: Sixth Edition by Douglas Self $35 to $285 (buy at Amazon)
This is much more of a technical, college-level book that explains how electronics actually work – in great detail. The author was part of the design team at Cambridge Audio and has a lot to teach if you want to get deep into the science of amplification. This is a very advanced book technically and can be a dense yet rewarding read. It has been relatively recently updated to its Sixth Edition. It also comes in a somewhat pricey paperback as well as a very costly hardcover edition.
Loudspeaker Design Cookbook: 8th Edition by Vance Dickason $142 (buy at Amazon)
Vance is one of those guys in-the-rear-with-the-gear when it comes to the audiophile hobby, in that his name isn’t a household one but many of his speaker designs are. He founded the Speaker Research Associates and has written extensively about speakers elsewhere. You can’t get much deeper into the technical details of the inner-workings and design of speakers than this book. It’s also a dense read but very worthwhile for those who love speakers and want to know they actually work.
The World in Six Songs: How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature by Daniel J. Levitin $13.95 to $80 (buy at Amazon)
This is Daniel J. Levitin’s second New York Times Best Seller, following up his This Is Your Brain on Music.” Here he breaks down all music into six different types, including: friendship, joy, comfort, religion, knowledge, and love. He takes these categories and goes deep into how they affect humans emotionally. This book is available on all kinds of formats from Kindle to paperback to audiobook.
Rock Covers by Bobby Busch and Johnathan Kirby $70 (buy at Amazon)
One of the most fun stores in Beverly Hills is the Taschen Store, which sells many of the publisher’s own art, music, and lifestyle books. The cover art images are great and the books are a very presentable reference in a high-end audiophile listening room. This hardcover book digs into some of the most iconic and powerful album covers, from Pink Floyd to The Sex Pistols and so many others. Relevant for the modern audiophile streaming enthusiast as well as the advanced vinyl collector, this book explains the back stories of some of rock and roll’s most famous album covers.
Art Record Covers by Francesco Spampinato 40th Edition $70 (buy at Amazon)
This volume matches the Rock Covers volume, but focuses on the fine art that went into each of the covers. Warhol, Dali, Basquiat, and Banksy are just a few of the many important fine artists that have collaborated with some of the most influential musicians in rock and roll history. This book is pretty much the exact opposite experience of reading Vance’s book on speaker design, but you will feel like a more enlightened audiophile after reading both – obviously for different reasons.
Other Fun Books About Music You Might Like….
There are so many music books that you can get into that are great reads, especially while listening to music on your audiophile system. Here are some of the best that I’ve read recently.
Dave Grohl’s The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music $18 in hardcover (buy at Amazon)
This was a good recent read after hearing him on The Howard Stern Show promoting the book. He seems like a very down-to-earth person/father despite his well-established roll as global rock star. The book came out before the death of his dear friend and Foo Fighters drummer, Taylor Hawkins, but covers pretty much everything up to that point.
Runnin’ with the Devil: A Backstage Pass to the Wild Times, Loud Rock, and the Down and Dirty Truth Behind the Making of Van Halen – $15 paperback (buy at Amazon)
Noel Monk was the road manager for Van Halen’s first tour and became their manager through their 1984 record. He was fired along with David Lee Roth and producer Ted Templeman as the band transitioned into the more commercial, Van Hagar Era. Talk about rock and roll stories! This book is a total page-turner. With inside looks at the way things went down from the manager’s perspective. Much like our beloved Eddie Van Halen, Noel Monk died in 2022, thus this book preserves his stories for us to enjoy.
I’ll Never Write My Memoirs by Grace Jones $15 to $55 (buy at Amazon)
Don’t you just have to read a memoir of a musical artist who famously sang “I will never write my memoirs”? I did. From Bond Girl to fashion icon to pop music superstar, this book takes you into Studio 54 and beyond for a career that is truly epic. There are some very compelling photos in this book, and like most of the music books here, it is a compelling read.
There are so many more that I can think of, but for now will you share with us (in our moderated comments below) what you are reading when you are listening to your audio system? What books do you keep in your listening room that you think are important for others to look into? We love to hear from you.